Brooke Bonorden, ’13, entered her senior year at Baylor – fresh off excavating an Israeli synagogue — planning to cross the stage to receive her degree in Archeology and then focus on either Near Eastern or biblical archeology. Less than two years later, she finds herself focused on British Colonialism and hoping to get crowd-funding for an excavation she will do this spring in Belize.
Bonorden, a graduate student at Texas Tech University, plans to conduct archival research at the Belize national archives repository and excavate two colonial-period sites in northwestern Belize in order to gain a better understanding of the social, political, and economic interactions that took place between indigenous Mayan groups and British colonists between the late 1700s and the early 1900s. In addition, she hopes to better understand the impact of a number of ex-Confederate soldiers who fled the United States after the Civil War (at the invitation of the British) to establish sugar cane plantations in Belize or essentially work as mercenaries for the British in their skirmishes with the Maya.
“Most of what we know about this period comes from the rose-colored glasses of a British perspective,” says Bonorden. “We hoping to piece together a more holistic narrative of colonial circumstances in Belize, giving a voice to the forgotten Mayan version of events.”
Bonorden says she chose to seek public support for her research because the opportunities for funding from scientific organizations are extremely competitive and very limited.
“The focus on STEM (Science/Technology/Engineering/Math) careers in academia has led to decreased funding opportunities for research endeavors in the social sciences in favor of STEM-related projects,” she says. “While our team continues to apply for research grants, we decided to turn to the public for financial assistance by fundraising for small donations from a very large audience.” So far, the crowd-funding effort has raised $890 toward her $6,000 goal with less than a month left — but the challenge is that you have to hit the goal to get any of the money. You can help Brooke out by clicking here to donate.
Bonorden was featured as an undergraduate junior on page 17 of the Spring 2012 issue of the Baylor Line for her work on some major archeological digs, for a grant she received from the University to test the dirt inside a hearth using a process called flotation, and for presenting her findings at the Texas Archeological Society’s annual convention. She also worked part-time at the Texas Collection.
But things don’t always work out as you plan, and Brooke was taken aback to find that her grad-school acceptances from some of the nation’s most prestigious archeological institutions came with no funding. The plans to spend her time in the deserts of Jordan or Israel on a major dig suddenly led to the realization that she needed to rethink her plans or face loan debt that she’d never recover from. So Bonorden took a year off after graduation to work as an archeology technician in the field of cultural resource management, which gave her a greater appreciation for historical archeology and led to her current focus on British Colonialism. She now attending Texas Tech with a Teaching Assistant position and stipend.
“During my break from school, I often asked God why he hadn’t helped my dreams come true, and what I had done to deserve my predicament,” Brooke says. “Reflecting upon the situation now, I can see that God’s plans are greater than my plans, and there is perfection in his timing. I think that Proverbs 3:5-6 says it best: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.’ As political instability and violence grows in the Middle East, I am thankful that God’s plan for my archaeology career has led me to safer places. In my stubborn reliance upon my own capabilities and aspirations, I had failed to truly meditate over HIS goals for my life, and in finally acknowledging His plans, my path is straighter than ever.”